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What are the symptoms of uterine fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are common noncancerous growths of the uterus. These growths can be harmless and cause no symptoms or they can cause any of the following:

• Heavy menstrual bleeding or menstrual bleeding lasting longer than a week

• Feeling pain or pressure in the pelvis

• Frequent urination or difficulty emptying the bladder

• Constipation

• Pain in back or legs 

 

What are the risk factors for uterine fibroids?

Factors that increase the risk of developing uterine fibroids are:

• Age (symptoms usually present during the 30s and 40s through menopause)

• African ancestry

• Having a family history of uterine fibroids

• Starting menstruation at an early age

• Obesity

• Alcohol consumption

• Vitamin D deficiency

• A diet high in red meat and low in vegetables, fruit and/or dairy

 

What causes uterine fibroids?

Causes of uterine fibroids are not clear, but uterine fibroids seem to be tied to hormones, genetics, growth factors, and extracellular matrix.

What is a uterine fibroid embolization (UFE)?

UFE is a minimally invasive alternative to a hysterectomy or myomectomy for treating uterine fibroids. The procedure treats existing fibroids and prevents new fibroid growth while preserving the uterus. UFE is performed in an outpatient setting by an interventional radiologist, a physician specially trained in minimally invasive procedures utilizing image guidance to diagnose and treat disease. 

Modern Vascular’s physicians treat uterine fibroids by threading a thin, flexible catheter through an incision in the groin or wrist. The catheter is guided by fluoroscopy (x-ray) to the artery or arteries of the uterus that are  supplying the fibroid.  Once there, microspheres, tiny particles,  are injected through the catheter to block blood flow to the uterine fibroid.

 

What are the benefits of UFE?

According to the Radiological Society of North America, Inc, studies show that almost 90% of UFE patients experience significant or complete resolution of their fibroid-related symptoms. 1

Like a hysterectomy, uterine fibroid embolization treats or eliminates the underlying fibroid to decrease symptoms. However, UFE is a minimally invasive procedure while a hysterectomy is a major surgery. UFE causes less scarring (if any), faster recovery time, less pain, fewer complications, and requires no hospital stay versus a 2-3 day hospital stay with a hysterectomy. Also, UFE does not eliminate the possibility of becoming pregnant while a hysterectomy does.

Other treatment options for uterine fibroids include medication, myomectomy (surgically removing the fibroid or fibroids), and endometrial ablation (using one of many methods to remove or destroy the uterine lining). 

 1 https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info/ufe

What are the risks of UFE?

Uterine fibroid embolization is very safe, and is associated with significantly lower rates of complications following treatment compared to other common fibroid removal procedures. Still, complications can occur, including:

• Bleeding or bruising at incision site

• Injury to artery wall

• Irregular menstrual cycles

• Early menopause (usually seen in patients 45+ years in age)

• Fibroid expulsion

• Infection

• post-embolization syndrome (fever, pain, nausea, high white blood cell count)

• In rare cases, contrast can cause allergic reaction or contrast-induced kidney impairment 

• Blood clots

• Potential infertility

Be sure to contact our office immediately if you experience any abnormal symptoms following your UFE procedure, as they may be signs of a rare complication. 

 

Is UFE covered by insurance?

UFE is often covered by insurance, as it has been proven to be an effective treatment for women suffering from uterine fibroids. We accept most insurance including Aetna, Anthem, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, Humana, Medicare, United Health Care, John Hopkins, and many others.  Most plans require pre-approval.

Note that we routinely receive authorization from uncontracted plans.  Please send all insurance types and we will attempt to get authorization.